Aoife Scott told David Hennessy why she is looking forward to playing at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, more than a year after it was first scheduled.
Aoife Scott’s upcoming gig at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith and her UK shows have been a long time coming.
And she had a long way to go when the Irish World spoke to her recently as, on tour in Germany at the time, she confessed she had taken a wrong turn in the tour van.
However, in spite of navigational mistakes, she says it is good to be back on the road.
Aoife told The Irish World: “It feels amazing. It’s been so nice to get back.
“In fact, I was a bit nervous about coming over to Germany and driving around and doing all that kind of stuff, but last night’s show was amazing.
“People who really missed music are so grateful to have it back, and it’s so nice to be back.”
Aoife has been described as one of Ireland’s best folk artists second only to the legendary Christy Moore and up there with Lankum as voted by the readers of Hot Press this year.
Aoife had been set to play the Irish Cultural Centre last May before the pandemic brought all live performance to a halt.
“It’s amazing to be able to come back to do the shows that we were meant to do.
“One of the major things that I found tough was the cancellation of all of our shows.
“They were really something that I had worked so hard for and I was looking forward to coming over and to be gigging in England.
“Because for me, I’ve been wanting to play music over there for so long.
“And then that didn’t happen, and now it’s coming true.
“It’s amazing to be able to go back.
“It does feel very strange because when you miss something for so long, it was like a big breath of air when shows came back and I was able to do my job again.
“But then you also have to be serious about it. You can’t be on cloud nine at every show because you have to make sure that you’re doing your job properly, and you have to make sure everything is safe.
“You have to make sure that you’re not taking risks and that you’re not putting people in situations where they will be unsafe.
“We all kind of take personal responsibility for what’s going on.
“I’m so excited about coming back.
“Andy, my partner, has never been to London properly. It would be really nice to be able to have a little trip over there.”
Aoife made her return to live performance when she and her cousin, who goes by the moniker Róisín O, gave a spine-tingling version of Grace for Belfast boxer Michael Conlan’s homecoming fight.
“We’ve been kind of been gigging on and off since August.
“Me and my cousin Róisín went to sing Grace in Falls Park and every weekend since, we’ve been driving around to do shows in different places and it’s really, really been amazing.
“It’s like a dream come true.
“You kind of appreciate it more than ever before.”
Aoife was in America when Covid-19 forced lockdowns and closed borders last year.
Although the planned tour had been an extensive one, Aoife and her band had to cancel it after only a few shows admitting, “It was a bit scary,”
However she did get home and has told us she did not realise how scared she was until she saw her front door.
So how has the last year been with no gigs? “It was a tough old period of time.
“The other day I was doing kind of a questionnaire and one of the questions was, ‘What was one of the worst things that ever happened to you?’
“And I guess the pandemic was fairly bad.
“I mean, it was not a good period in life because it was so long to be off the road and not working.
“And then when your job is taken away from you, you tend to just go into a bad place.
“You question what you’re doing or who you are, your identity: Everything is questioned.
“It was kind of difficult to get my head around that.
“And just the unknown as well, there was a lack of knowledge as to when we might get back.”
Even as things open up, Aoife is counting her blessings and even prepared for further lockdowns.
“Things are changing every day. We don’t know what’s going to happen.
“I guess I’m very positive. We’ve gotten so much out of the last few months, and we got our fix if you know what I mean.
“If we do have to go back into a semi-lockdown, I would be happy with the fix of my shows that I got. That will keep me going for a little while.
“Hopefully it won’t be too long if we do have to go back into lockdown.”
Aoife comes from a musically renowned family with ballad singers Frances and Mary Black as her mother and auntie respectively while her cousin Danny is lead singer of The Coronas. Another cousin is known as Róisín O and part of a band Thanks Brother.
Aoife has told us before that as kids they would play hide and seek in the Olympia Ballroom while Mary or Frances were sound checking.
It should come as no surprise that so many of them have become performers after growing up so close to it.
However, if you thought the pandemic gave them time to see more of each other after years of being on the road, you would be wrong.
“We haven’t really seen each other that much because myself and Andy live in Kildare.
“We were very isolated from my family. It was outside the five kilometres so I didn’t get to see my family at all throughout the pandemic.
“I was very homesick for Dublin, so much so that when my Mam called one day on video call, I saw the wallpaper of my childhood home in the background and I started getting upset because I just missed being at home, being in Dublin.
“To be stuck 40 minutes away, 20 kilometres away or whatever, it’s not that far but it felt like the furthest place in the world.
“I really, really missed my family and hanging out with them.
“They’re my favourite people to be with so it’s tough when you don’t get to see them.
“When we moved out there to Kildare, we were delighted that we were so close to Dublin but the reality is it wasn’t close enough to see people socially distanced in lockdown.
“Everybody was in the same boat. It wasn’t just us.
“So many people couldn’t see their parents for a good year.
“I know that my mam really missed seeing her grandbabies, my brother’s babies.
“It was tough for everybody and then the amount of loss that was caused, not only jobs but people lost their lives.
“There’s just so much to unravel out of what happened over the last eighteen months to two years, and we won’t really know the impact on people’s mental health and on people’s lives until further down the road.”
It was a London show that kick-started Aoife’s career as she won a competition to play at the London Feis in 2011 alongside names like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.
“I was still working at the time and I was living in Galway. I entered a thing called Fast Track to Feis. I went over for a heat with my band and we got through and then we had to go back again for the semi-final and we flew over again. I was travelling from Galway to Dublin, flying over, doing the heat and coming back straight away, back into work on the Monday.
“We won the competition and we ended up getting to play at the Feis in Finsbury Park. It was the first ever proper show that I ever did really. I didn’t have an album to my name, I hadn’t anything recorded. After I won that competition, I handed in my notice. It gave me enough confidence to go, ‘Okay I think I’m going to try and do this full -time’.
“And it’s funny because I haven’t really been back.
“I haven’t really gigged properly in England at all.
“It’s amazing to continue what I did ten years ago when I won the competition.
“When I was entering that competition, I was only starting out.
“It was a bar in Kilburn where we were doing some heats.
“We had to go three weekends in a row to do those.
“I would fly out really early on a Saturday and then I’d be back Monday morning, straight into work.
“It was four weekends in a row and just having the best craic with a lot of friends who happened to live in London at the time.
“It was just really, really an amazing time and then getting to play the festival was like a dream come true.
“Vince Power’s festival, it was amazing. It really, really was.
“I’ll never forget. It was my first introduction to doing this as a career and it opened up the doors for me. I left my job after winning the competition and I went to play music full-time.
“Friends of mine were in the competition as well, they had travelled over from Ireland.
“It was such a memorable thing to happen.
“My brother was in a band at the time and we were celebrating.
“It was literally like a dream come true and when I think back on it, it’s amazing.”
It was only last year that Aoife produced her much anticipated second album Homebird, launching it at the Temple Bar Trad Festival.
Following her highly celebrated 2016 debut album, Carry The Day, Aoife no doubt had been plans for the record that never came to pass due to the virus.
“It was hard to get my head around during the lockdown. I would take many walks and I would be thinking about all the opportunities that we had ahead of us.
“But the shows we’re doing now, I’m singing the songs and in my head they’re still new.
“Even though it’s two years old now, the album.
“I’m talking to people about how sorry I feel for these songs on stage every night, and I’m telling people that it’s a new album but it’s two years old or whatever.
“But the funny thing about it was I ordered 2,000 copies of the CD to sell at my shows and they all ended up in my spare room during the pandemic, so now I’m just trying to get people to buy them as a Christmas present so I can get them out of the spare room.
“People have been so nice buying the album off the website.
“It’s amazing to me the way that you can actually support musicians who are trying to get back into the industry because some people may be a little bit unsure still.
“I find that with folk music, we’re all very close quarters, like any other show is as well.
“But there was a bit of nervousness there as well about going back to shows.
“I think that’s what we need to talk about as well, some people might feel nervous about how safe it is to go back to shows.
“They might be trying to shield themselves if they’re vulnerable to certain things.
“But supporting musicians and events in any way they can by sharing events and telling people what’s happening, and buying music directly from the artist is another way to support music.
“I think it’s going to take a long time for the industry to get back to 100%.
“It’s not going to bounce back straightaway.
“What I’m worried about is younger musicians not joining the live music industry because it’s so difficult to get into now, following the pandemic so hopefully now people will support it.”
She may not have toured her most recent album yet but Aoife says she already has the bones of another album after having so much free time during lockdown.
“That (the next album) would be that would be nearly there.
“We’ve been working on an album of Dublin songs.
“I’m from the Liberties in Dublin and we’ve been collecting old Liberties songs from the archives.
“We’ve also been writing new songs about the Liberties and about my own memories of growing up, about places in Dublin that we really are in love with.
“We can’t afford to live there anymore so it’s like a love letter to Dublin and telling stories about it.
“We’ve been working on that all over lockdown and we’re really excited about the new music coming out, we’re performing new songs at the gigs.
“You get a tour of Ireland when you come to one of my shows because I’m singing about the Wild Atlantic Way and I’m singing about Dublin and I’m singing about all my favourite places that I love about Ireland.
“I’m the most Irish person ever that you could come and see performing.
“Fingers crossed we’ll have a new CD out very soon.”
Aoife has just released a new song with Matt McGinn called Time Well Spent.
“I have a new song coming out that actually came out of lockdown as well.
“It was a funny situation with Matt McGinn who wrote that song.
“I hadn’t met him before.
“I had heard his name. He had gotten in touch to do an interview for his podcast.
“We kind of met on zoom, like everyone else over lockdown.
“Following that, we met online in this kind of kind of folk room where people sing songs.
“He came on and he sang a song. I heard it and I just was so blown away by how magical the song was.
“I text him saying, ‘That is an unbelievable song’.
“And he said, ‘Do you want to sing on it?’
“We hadn’t met but had become friends online.
“It’s funny because the first time I met him was when I went up to his studio for the song. He lives in the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down.
“For me, it was kind of a breaking point in my lowness as well because I did get low during the lockdown with not working, not gigging, not seeing people.
“So when restrictions lifted and we got to meet in the studio and I got to sing the song, it was a turning point for me coming out of a bad low of following the lockdown or whatever.
“And then things just started to get better and better and better from then.
“I’m really excited about it. I was privileged to be asked to sing with him and we’re very excited about it.
“He has beautiful babies that he wrote the song for, it’s a lovely song.
“One of the things that came out of the pandemic is how important it is to spend time with people that we love and that was one of my major things.
“Because before that, we considered moving to different places for better work opportunities, away from my immediate family but I realized following the lockdown that I would never be able to do that.
“That’s really what the song is about. It’s about appreciating how lucky we are.”
In January Aoife will feature along with Peggy Seeger and Wallis Bird for a special night as part of Tradfest Temple Bar.
“I’m really excited about that,” she says.
“It’s something else I’m really looking forward to.
“That’s in the National Stadium and what’s funny about the National Stadium is I’m only from about 500 metres from there.
“I used to get the bus to school from outside it.
“I got to see amazing artists like Nanci Griffith play there as a teenager as well.
“It’s amazing for me to be performing in such a historical venue like the National Stadium in Dublin.”
Aoife plays The Garrett Sessions in TADS Theatre Toddington, Bedfordshire on Thursday 18 November and The Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith on Friday 19 November.
For more information, click here.